Do the Social Sciences Need the Concept of “Rationality”? Notes on the Obsession with a Concept

  • Karl-Dieter OppEmail author


The present paper criticizes the extensive use of the concept of “rationality” in the social sciences. It is first analyzed what the different issues are when the rationality concept is used. Next treatments of rationality and their major problems by Herbert Simon, Jon Elster, Max Weber, and Raymond Boudon are discussed. It is found, among other things, that these (and many other) authors do not provide arguments for or show the usefulness of the concept of “rationality” that they use. It is further shown that the concept has quite different meanings and is often not clearly defined. Based on this analysis, it is concluded that the concept of rationality is largely superfluous, and it often unnecessarily complicates arguments.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeipzigLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.University of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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